A Fine Gael councillor who lost the party whip over accepting a political donation has claimed she was used as a “scapegoat” by the party.
South Dublin county councillor Therese Ridge has lodged an appeal against the decision to discipline her following adverse findings against her by the Mahon Tribunal.
She admitted to being “desperately hurt and dreadfully upset” about the treatment of her by the party, including the Taoiseach, ministers, and TDs.
Ms Ridge was “delighted” in the early 1990s to have received the donation of £1,000 from lobbyist Frank Dunlop which the Mahon Tribunal described as “entirely improper”.
Speaking yesterday to Pat Kenny on RTÉ, she said: “I took the donation with great gratitude at the time.” She had not asked for it and Mr Dunlop had called to her house to give it to her.
She used the donation for an election campaign that took place “in very cold weather” with “not even a hope of getting elected but doing it for Fine Gael”.
Ms Ridge said there was “absolutely nothing untoward” about her support for the Quarryvale project which was in the best interest of her constituency as it had 64% unemployment.
“Of course I asked my colleagues, if you vote for this, it would be a good thing for the area. I can’t make up people’s minds for them,” she said.
She said there were no requirements until 1997 to declare election donations: “They’re looking at the rules and regulations that pertain now and didn’t at the time.”
The Fine Gael committee had exonerated the Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell, who received an “inappropriate” donation of €500.
Ms Ridge believes the party’s internal committee had chosen not to discipline the TD because they were concerned it would lead to her retirement and a by-election in Dublin South.
Ms Ridge said she was “exceedingly perturbed” about the attitude towards her. She said she got a “chilly feeling” when she read in a newspaper that Ms Mitchell would resign if the committee found against her. “When I heard that I said, ‘oh wow, there’s only two of us’.”
A party spokesperson said they did not wish to comment on claims Ms Ridge had been used as scapegoat.
She was instructed to resign from all committees associated from her role as public representative or be expelled from Fine Gael.
A decision on that issue had been postponed pending her appeal of the party whip removal.
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